The Oregon Ducks don’t mind if other teams try to use things they like from their offense.
“We steal stuff, too,” coach Mark Helfrich said. “We’re equal-opportunity thieves.”
But copying the schemes and tempo is one thing. Executing them is another.
“I don’t think anybody can,” veteran running backs coach Gary Campbell said. “You can’t do that in one week. You can’t do that in two weeks. This is something that evolved over years. Our own players didn’t get used to it in a year.”
Left tackle Jake Fisher said he watches with interest as other programs try to pick up the pace and also put splash in their uniforms.
“Football is a copycat game,” he said. “Even in the NFL, it’s switching over to that spread stuff. As long as the game is evolving and it’s getting better and the talent is getting better, that’s all you can hope for.”
Helfrich said he can see the Oregon influence at Ohio State, where coach Urban Meyer imported some ideas from the time he spent in Eugene with former head coach Chip Kelly during a year out of coaching.
“Their strengths are different than our strengths, but similar,” Helfrich said. “There’s definitely some similarities to it.... They’ve certainly put their stamp on it and their style, whether it’s coach Meyer’s background or [offensive coordinator Tom Herman’s] background or somebody else on their offensive staff.”
Helfrich said he and his staff are generally welcoming of other coaches who want to learn.
“We’re very friendly,” he said. “It depends on how much we know the other party. We try to gather information more than send it out.... Again, we steal from people, they steal from us, everybody steals from everybody. It’s just kind of how it works.”
Scouting Ohio State
Helfrich said defensively, the Ohio State defensive front is more athletic than it is given credit for.
“They’re really good defensively in a completely different way than Florida State,” he said. “They don’t take nearly as many chances as Florida State does. Like any team, when they get you in third down, that’s when they kind of impose their will.”
Helfrich said the Buckeyes’ defense has shades of Stanford and Michigan State.
“They’ve got a bunch of pressures, similar to Michigan State,” he said. “They’ve got some variation up front, the ability to be in multiple fronts. There’ll be some adjustment as far as trying to figure out what they’re doing.”
Helfrich said he watched Ohio State’s Sugar Bowl win over Alabama only from the beginning of the fourth quarter once the team got back to the hotel on New Year’s Day.
“Didn’t see 21-6 and how they came back, but just two very talented, very physical teams,” he said. “Then you flip on the film of Ohio State throughout the season ... a quarterback playing well, a couple of tailbacks that are real good and probably four wideouts that are as good as we’ve seen.”
Helfrich was glad to see linebacker Tony Washington make a play that helped Oregon advance in the playoffs. In October, it looked as if he might have kept Oregon out of the playoffs.
The senior drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taking a bow after a sack late against Arizona. Instead of having to kick a field goal, Arizona got a first down and went on to score a touchdown in a 31-24 upset of the Ducks.
“All he’s done since then is lead,” Helfrich said. “Like I said right after that game, I believe in that guy 100 percent.”
Washington helped force one of the third-quarter fumbles that ignited the 59-20 rout against Florida State. He returned Jameis Winston’s fumble 58 yards for a touchdown.
“Very fitting for that to happen in the Rose Bowl and for him to get the little lucky bounce,” Helfrich said. “He certainly, certainly flipped the game. That was a huge, huge play in the game.”
It’ll be ‘different’
Helfrich is preparing the Ducks for a different atmosphere than they experienced at the Pac-12-friendly Rose Bowl in the semifinal against Florida State.
“There will be a different ratio of Oregon fans to Ohio State fans, and it’s indoors, and that lends to a much more energized atmosphere,” he said. “It’s different. We’ve used that to fuel our preparation.”
Oregon last played indoors at the Alamodome on Dec. 30, 2013, in a 30-7 victory against Texas.
Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones is so physical, he’s like Terrelle Pryor and Cam Newton to Helfrich.
“Just a physical, tough guy to bring down,” Helfrich said.
Additionally, Helfrich said Jones has an “unbelievably accurate” deep ball.
“The receivers go up and make play after play after play in one-on-one situations,” Helfrich said. “The 50-50 ball is the new en vogue deal. They’re about 70-30 on 50-50 balls.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760
College Football Playoff National Championship
7:30 p.m. Monday, AT&T Stadium